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Author Topic: Presence: The Real Story  (Read 1725 times)  Share 


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Presence: The Real Story
« on: June 09, 2010, 07:15:50 PM »
So you've read The Power of Now, and thanks to Eckhart Tolle's silver-tongued prose, you are now convinced that presence (living in the moment) will make all your problems disappear. As long as you just "focus on the now", you are set for life, right?

There's one problem! Eckhart Tolle forgot to tell you what you actually need in order to be able to do presence properly. In fact he missed this in A New Earth as well, and ended up having to write an entirely new book, Practicing the Power of Now (and the audio series of the same name) explaining actually how to do it.

So here is my list, from personal experience, of what is actually required of you in order to become present.

1) Neurotransmitters. As I've said in another post, trying to do presence without neurotransmitters is like going into the desert without water. To maintain the focus you need in order to remain present, you need serotonin for wakefulness, dopamine for focus and norepinephrine for alertness. Neurotransmitters are ordinarily released during task-orientated behaviour. If you generally don't do much in your life except sit around, you are likely going to find it extremely difficult to remain focused on the present when first starting out, since your brain is not used to being task-orientated, and is therefore not used to giving you the neurotransmitters to be task-orientated. This is the same reason people who are depressed who sit at home all day reinforce their depression by not allowing themselves to provide their own neurotransmitters. Hence, they require prescription drugs which artificially boost neurotransmitters, in order to feel good.
Luckily, the more you practise presence, the more demand you make on your brain for neurotransmitters. Hence, over time, your brain will provide them to you: your baseline neurotransmitter levels will increase, making YOU happy and presence EASIER. In other words, keep at it.

2) Time. There's a reason Eckhart Tolle can afford to be present all the time: besides writing the occasional book and hosting the odd seminar, the guy doesn't actually DO much. He said himself when he first figured out presence, he would sit for days at a time just feeding the ducks and watching the trees. Good work if you can get it.
If you have any kind of analytical job however, you have to accept that for those 8 hours a day you work, you will NOT be able to be present. The nature of your work dictates that you MUST be in your head. That doesn't mean you can't experience flow (and flow is complementary to presence). However, whilst calculating facts and figures, or scheduling your day, you CANNOT be present, by definition. Even if you take a 15-minute break during work, you will likely find yourself still talking to yourself in your head. Completely normal, and unavoidable - if you come out of that analytical mindset by being present, when you come back to do more work, you will find it harder to get back into the flow.
Consequently, you need to pick suitable times for presence. Generally, this will be most of the time when you aren't in work, i.e. your social life and whilst doing tasks that don't require forethought.

3) Concentration. This includes the ability to maintain your focus on one thing without being distracted by any input received from the senses or internally. You must have some level of ability to stop thoughts, and get right back on track if you are distracted. Neurotransmitters come into play here, as we've talked about. However, PRACTICE is the most important thing. If you struggle with constant internal thought loops, even while focusing on the present you are likely to get pulled off track. A meditative practice that builds CONCENTRATION is therefore essential. I recommend my staring meditation here: When I began practising presence, I would stare at wildlife for extended periods. This seemed to draw on our in-built hunter instincts: a good example of using our natural, pre-existing faculties for personal improvement.

4) Equanimity. You need to understand your emotions and the robotic nature humans (and all animals) have with regard to reactivity to inputs originating both in the environment and internally. If many things "bother" you, a worldview of equanimity with your emotions and a better relationship with truth - being okay with "what is" - needs to be cultivated, usually utilizing a meditative practice to make gains in this area. If you don't have equanimity and a generally accepting attitude towards the world, your efforts to remain present will be constantly sabotaged as your emotions take you away from the moment and into thoughts and behaviours of reaction.
The relaxation response is entirely important here. After triggering this response, negative emotions are dialled down to approximately 10% of their normal strength. Consequently not only is it a lot easier to find equanimity with the world, but your emotions won't have that capacity to "tug" you down unhelpful thought loops and away from the present moment. I will be writing plenty more about the relaxation response shortly, and how I personally activate it. There is also plenty about it already on Google, so check it out.

5) Practice. Ultimately it might take you MONTHS or even YEARS to develop consistent presence. Some people are lucky on this front. I know people who are naturally present - and their lives appear to be a breeze. For someone highly analytical like myself however, or for someone who is easily emotionally derailed, it could be months before they even understand what presence looks like from an experiential perspective. The books by Tolle and co. are somewhat misleading in this respect: their message seems to be "just focus on the present!" as though it's that easy for everyone. They neglect to mention the hard work most of us will have to put in to even get to that level. Once again, coupling presence with a serious meditative practice is usually essential to get the level of presence these authors enjoy.

Practise hard, allow your brain time to adapt and provide you with the tools you need for the job, and be accepting of the times you can't be present.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 10:15:30 AM by Illuminatus »


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Re: Presence: The Real Story
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2010, 09:30:59 PM »
I actually stopped training presence because it was interfering with my work. Presence is contradictory to it. I was metaphorically "sitting in the park and feeding ducks". This is something I can't accept, cause what I do is more important. However I would be really interested if anyone had a technique for blending the two modes: work analytical and presence.

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